A day after the release of the scathing Goldstone Commission report that accused Israel of war crimes, Jerusalem on Wednesday revealed its defensive strategy: convince the world's democracies the report handcuffs them in their fight against terrorism, and keep discussion of the document confined to the Human Rights Council in Geneva.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who on Wednesday termed the report a "prize for terrorists" that makes it more difficult for democratic countries to combat them, will be speaking in the coming days to a list of prime ministers of countries represented on the Human Rights Council, lobbying them to oppose any resolution adopting the findings of the report.
Netanyahu said the commission, headed by South African Constitutional Court Judge Richard Goldstone, was a "kangaroo court" whose conclusions were drawn up before the hearings even started.
The Human Rights Council, which mandated Goldstone to "investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by the occupying power, Israel, against the Palestinian people," will review the findings on September 29.
Simona Halperin, director of the Foreign Ministry's International Organizations and Human Rights department, said while it was almost certain - because of its composition - that the council would adopt a critical resolution, "we need to ensure that the democracies that care about the rule of law will not support the one-sided resolution."
In other words, Israel's diplomatic efforts are now centered on ensuring that any critical resolution that comes out of the Human Rights Council, and which perhaps forwards the report for discussion to the UN Security Council, will be approved by countries like Cuba, Nicaragua, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and not by countries like South Korea, Canada, Brazil, France and Italy.
Without support of the world's Western democracies, the logic goes, such a resolution would lack moral authority.
"The goal is to keep this from going outside of Geneva, to make sure the poisonous fruit born in sin in Geneva, stays in Geneva," Halperin said.
Previewing arguments Israeli officials will use in fighting against the report, Halperin said, "All democracies fighting terrorism, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world, should be worried that this report throws out the narrative of democracies fighting terrorists, and embraces the idea that terrorists are freedom fighters entitled to act the way they do. The world which cares about the rule of law and protection of human life should be outraged at this message."
Another senior government official said that while until now the Foreign Ministry's focus regarding the Goldstone Report was to argue about Israel's right to defend itself, and to deflect accusations of war crimes, since the document was issued the message has been recalibrated and is now portraying the report itself as part of a greater problem facing the West: defending itself against terrorists.
The Goldstone Report, in this light, becomes not only an Israeli problem, but an international one.
"We are trying to create awareness in the public that this report threatens every democratic country," the official said. "Those who are happy with the report are those trying to blow us up."
In an effort to get this message across, the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday launched a "Gaza Facts" Web site (www.mfa.gov.il/GazaFacts), which links to an in-depth, 160-page document on all aspects of Operation Cast Lead, from an Israeli perspective.
Links to Gaza Facts will be advertised on major Web sites in those countries considered friendly to Israel that are represented on the Human Rights Council, and whose vote on any resolution will be critical. For instance, anyone going on to The New York Times Web site in Slovenia will see a link to this site. The site will also be advertised extensively in the US.
Israel, meanwhile, is also mounting an aggressive diplomatic campaign at the United Nations, with Israeli officials planning to meet on Wednesday with US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice, as well as with other US administration officials and members of Congress.
Gabriela Shalev, Israel's permanent representative to the UN, said "concentrated diplomatic efforts" would target members of the Security Council, which could send the matter to the International Criminal Court at The Hague unless the referral is vetoed by an Israeli ally.
"We trust our friends, the United States, for full support," Shalev said.
She said Israel hoped the US would also exert its influence in the Human Rights Council, which it rejoined earlier this year after a hiatus.
"We do hope this is an opportunity to show the US is standing with us regarding human rights and not singling out Israel," Shalev said.
Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon, who is currently in the US, said the Goldstone Report "is a dangerous attempt to harm the principle of self-defense by democratic states and provides legitimacy to terrorism."
Ayalon, who met with Jewish community leaders in New York and called on them to join together and act with full force against the report, said in a speech to the heads of the American Jewish Committee that this document "should be treated like the [eventually rescinded] UN General Assembly Resolution 3379 equating Zionism with racism. We must mobilize and act with all force against the report in order to remove it."
American and European officials have so far declined to offer specifics on how they will handle the report.
"Justice Goldstone's report regarding alleged violations of international humanitarian law and abuses during the Gaza conflict was just released yesterday. The issues it addresses are complex and the findings will take time to digest," one US official said Wednesday. "We will review it carefully."
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